In a blow to hippies and health nuts everywhere (myself very much included), kombucha has been cancelled.
The positive swell behind probiotic-rich fermented tea, which has become more visible in recent years as brands like GT’s, Brew Dr., and Kevita have muscled onto beverage shelves with a rainbow array of colorful flavors, was recently knocked down a few pegs after Salon and Munchies both reported on the purported health risks kombucha guzzlers face.
Both outlets noted that dentists have claimed that the drink’s newfound popularity—an October 2018 Bloomberg article found that sales were up 43 percent over 2017 and on pace to break a billion dollars—has coincided with an uptick of enamel erosion among their patients. “Kombucha is nearly as acidic as a pop [sic] and energy drinks,” Dr. Bobby J. Grossi told Salon. “Acidic drinks mess with the PH level of the saliva which ideally should be 7 or 7.3, when the saliva level becomes more acidic it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which can take over the mouth.”
That bacteria could lead to tooth decay and erosion, according to the dentists.
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Those claims run in the face of the popular sentiment surrounding the drink, which holds that kombucha’s high level of probiotics promote gut health, boost your immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, along with more ridiculous claims that make the brew sound like a magically healthy elixir. Adherents are quick to position the drink as a healthier alternative to soda, flashing the slick-looking bottles on social media as wellness continues to trend.
The dentists are advocating that their patients stop drinking the stuff, comparing kombucha to (shudder) sugary poisons like soda.
Here’s the thing: I love kombucha. The first time I sipped the slightly vinegary drink on a sweaty day tramping through Chicago I was less than impressed, but ever since I can’t get enough of the stuff, no matter what brand. Whether it’s a sludge green concoction or a fruity neon mix, I’m game to sip—and I’m sure it’s relatively healthy, but I’m not drinking it for super powers. In an overwhelming world of deadlines, train delays, and the other small indignities of living in the modern age, my own personal slice of nirvana comes when I finish a hard training session on a hot day, open up my fridge, crack open a fresh bottle, and chug down that bracing brew.
Will I cede that moment to dentists? No! I haven’t had an appointment with one in several years (see: the small indignities of living in the modern age and the current insurance landscape), so I might as well keep ignoring their advice. Check out these stellar kombuchas that I will continue to drink unabated.
And yet, I still have to worry about my teeth rotting out of my skull. I’ll keep drinking the stuff, fine—but I’ll be smarter about it.
Thankfully, there are some guidelines to follow. “We suggest rinsing your mouth with water after drinking kombucha to wash away the acidic compounds it may leave behind and not eating or brushing for at least 30 minutes afterwards, allowing your tooth enamel to remineralize and reharden,” dentist Dr. Greg Grobmyer told Salon.
Keeping that in mind—and remembering the sage words of Ron Burgundy, who once advised that “tasteful discretion is the name of the game,”—I’ll limit my kombucha consumption to a few bottles a week. You can have too much of a good thing, after all.
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